UCLA Advances To First Men’s Final Four Since 2008 Thanks To Johnny Juzang, Who Could Be First Asian American NBA Lottery Pick

Johnny Juzang’s impact at UCLA has been immediate since he transferred from Kentucky, giving the Bruins the scorer and dynamic player they had been missing in recent years.

The junior guard is playing his best at just the right time, leading the Bruins into the Final Four for the first time since 2008.

Juzang also has had a much broader impact, even if it’s been unintentional.

Projected to be the first Asian American NBA first-round pick, possibly in the lottery, he’s become an inspiration for younger players at a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise.

“It’s not something that’s on the top of my mind or really think about. I’m just Johnny,” said Juzang, who’s mother is Vietnamese. “I will get messages or hear stories about how I inspire people, regardless of their heritage. Sometimes there are people of Asian decent. But just being able to inspire people is something that’s touching and inspires me and something I don’t take lightly.”

Juzang’s older brother Christian played at Harvard and led the Saigon Heat to the 2020 championship in the Vietnamese Basketball Association.

Christian was the top pick in the VBA draft, and the younger Juzang looks like he has an even brighter professional future. He has thrived on the court since transferring to Westwood. A former five-star recruit, the 6-foot-6 guard was a role player on a loaded Kentucky team, averaging 2.9 points and 1.9 assists in 28 games as a freshman.

Not long after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the season, Juzang announced he was transferring and later picked UCLA to be closer to his family in Tarzana, California.

Juzang missed the first four games of the 2020-21 season with a foot injury, but he is a big reason the Bruins were able to overcome senior Chris Smith’s season-ending knee injury in early January.

Juzang was the Bruins’ leading scorer at 15.5 points per game while shooting 34% from the 3-point arc and seemed to get better as the season progressed. He scored at least 20 points three times in the NCAA Tournament, including 28 against Michigan to clinch a spot in the Final Four.

And he’s done it on an ankle that’s been bothering him for weeks.

“He’s more of a scorer than a shooter and I think that’s what he got labeled at Kentucky,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “I wanted him to get rid of that mindset. We really worked hard on his mid-range and him going to the basket. He’s grown immensely.”

Juzang’s length and skill set have him projected as a possible lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft. It will be history if he is.

Jeremy Lin was a standout at Harvard before his Linsanity days in the NBA and lengthy professional career. Kihei Clark, who’s Filipino American, made one of the biggest plays during Virginia’s run to the 2019 championship and just completed his junior season.

Arizona State’s Remy Martin had a stellar four-year career in the desert and Jordan Clarkson, who is also Filipino American, has a steady NBA career going after playing at Tulsa and Missouri.

Rui Hachimura of Gonzaga was a lottery pick, but he is a native of Japan. Yao Ming never played college basketball, going straight from the Chinese national team to the NBA.

Juzang is a rarity as an Asian American in college basketball with clear NBA potential.

“I think it’ll be a really significant moment and I think the more that it can just be felt where that is normal, I think is what can make it even more significant,” Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra, who’s mother is Filipino, said without talking specifically about Juzang. “It doesn’t matter what your race is or what your background is. As long as you can hoop, then people can see you in that way.”

A high draft pick or not, Juzang has been an inspiration for players, particularly young Asian Americans. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have spiked during the pandemic, as has the vitriol on social media and beyond toward people of Asian decent.

Juzang’s success and UCLA’s run into the Final Four has drawn positive reactions from Vietnam and all over the world.

“That’s always a good feeling to hear from people, but I wouldn’t say it’s on the forefront of my mind,” he said.

Maybe not, but it’s helping — at least a little.

Source: NBA

Houston Rockets Player Christian Wood Admits Girlfriend Left Him After Going Undrafted, Now Has $41M Contract

Houston Rockets star Christian Wood has revealed that his girlfriend left him the same night he went undrafted as a 19-year-old in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Christian Wood is enjoying life in Houston now but the story was different five years ago in 2015. The then 19-year-old sophomore out of UNLV had anticipated hearing his name announced during the 2015 NBA Draft, and later celebrating with loved ones at Caesar’s Palace. However, things did not pan out well, and it was a night to forget for young Christian Wood who went undrafted. 

In an interview with The Ringer, Christian Wood spoke about his career so far and the horror night in which he went undrafted five years ago. Wood was pegged as a late first-rounder during the 2015 NBA Draft by most mocks, but those hopes soon faded as he went undrafted. He had rented an event space at Caesar’s Palace and had invited a few dozen family and friends. His worst fears came true when he went uncalled in the second round. 

And while Christian Wood went undrafted, his despair that night reached a tipping point when he was dumped by his girlfriend. Wood reveals that he dropped her off at the airport after the draft and never saw her again. In the years that followed, Wood became an NBA journeyman and even signed with the Chinese Basketball Association in 2017. He was later waived by the Fujian Sturgeons which Wood reveals was a ‘new low’. 

Five years since the fateful night saw Christian Wood undrafted and dumped by his girlfriend, the 25-year-old has redeemed himself and has become one of the rising stars in the league. After bouncing around and playing limited minutes for the Charlotte Hornets, New Orleans Pelicans and Milwaukee Bucks, Wood finally had a chance to make his mark in Detroit. Wood averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in 62 games for the Pistons but was eventually let off.

Christian signed with Houston Rockets in the off-season, signing a three-year, $41 million contract. While it is still early days, the 25-year-old has already shown signs that the Christian Wood contract could be a steal by Houston, having averaged 27.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG in 40.0 MPG for a depleted Rockets squad.

Source: Republic World

After Being Cut Twice, Atlanta Falcons Kicker Younghoe Koo On Track To Make First Pro Bowl

Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo is having an outstanding 2020 season and looks to be on track to make his first Pro Bowl.

Thus far, Koo has converted on 96 percent of his kicks, making 24 out of 25 field goals. He’s a perfect 5-for-5 on his attempts from 50 yards or more, trailing only Jason Sanders of the Jets.

Koo joined the Falcons in 2019 after the team parted ways with long-time veteran, Matt Bryant. Koo went 23-for-26 the rest of the way and made it a point in the offseason to become more consistent with his kicks.

That hard work looks to be paying off for Koo, as for the 26-year-old leads all NFC kickers in Pro Bowl voting.

Source: The Falcons Wire

Carmelo Anthony wants to see more top prospects like Mikey Williams make history by considering Historically Black Colleges & Universities, could drastically alter the NCAA landscape

carmelo-anthony-mikey-williams

What a lot of coaches don’t understand is that we don’t need them..WE CONTROL OUR OWN NARRATIVE!! I’m very thankful that God blessed me to be in the position to do that..We write our own stories..we determine what the next page in life is going to be..why does it always have to be the big universities? – Mikey Williams on his Instagram

All it takes is one person to change history… It changes college sports because you have a young black kid who is at the top of his game who decided to go to a black university. –  Carmelo Anthony on prospect of Mikey Williams attending an HBCU

Source: NBC Sports